Insect Repelling Herbs, Bug Guide & Organic Pest Control
Insect Repelling Herbs
If you are an insect magnet, or know someone who is, here are four easy to grow herbs that are powerful insect repellents, delicious culinary herbs and have very beneficial medicinal properties – all at the same time! All of these can be direct sown now for enjoyable times outside this summer.
Lemon Balm, so known because the crushed leaves smell strongly of lemons, has a very long history of use as a healing herb, an insect repellant and as a culinary herb. The Greeks listed it in their Materia Medica as a healing agent against scorpion stings, insect and dog bites. Pliny and several other ancient physicians believed strongly in its healing powers for wounds and inflammation prevention.
Easily started from seed, the loose clusters of small bluish-white to yellow flowers bloom from May until October, growing where the leaves meet the stem. The leaves are very deeply wrinkled and range from dark green to yellowish green.
Lemon Balm is very attractive to bees and other pollinators and its scientific name is a derivation of the Greek word for bee.
English Pennyroyal is another herb well-known and valued by the ancients for culinary uses along with repelling insects and healing and soothing uses. Both the Greeks and Romans used the herb in cooking and healing, with Pliny writing that pennyroyal drove away fleas; Carl Linnaeus used the Latin root for flea – pulex – when naming it botanically.
Used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans, who often flavored their wine with pennyroyal. A large number of the recipes in the Roman cookbook of Apicius use pennyroyal, along with such herbs as lovage, oregano and coriander. Leaves have been used as an insect repellent against fleas and other pests after crushing the leaves and rubbing them on exposed skin.
Basil was featured in our late May Newsletter, showcasing its cultural and culinary history. As an insect repellant, it is one of the few herbs that doesn’t need to be crushed or disturbed to release its scent, as the aroma naturally perfumes the air with its insect repellant.
It is especially effective against mosquitos, but deters other bothersome insects as well. To boost the repellant properties, pinch off a few leaves and lightly rub them between your palms to release their essential oils, then rub the leaves on exposed skin.
Some gardeners have found that simply planting a short row or a couple of pots of basil near the doors to a house reduces the biting insects that enter, as well as making the area outside more enjoyable to be in with the aroma and decreased insects.
Catnip, also called catmint, is a powerfully fragrant plant whose little clusters of white spotted-lavender flowers have been cultivated for centuries for medical purposes. All parts of the plant are used in herbal cosmetics, salads, sauces and teas.
Recent studies show that catnip is much more effective at repelling mosquitos than DEET (the highly toxic ingredient used in most commercial bug repellents) by as much as 10 times. The essential oil nepetalactone, which gives the catnip is characteristic odor, is responsible for the repellant effect, while still smelling good for most people.
Bug Guide Website
Bug Guide is an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures. Using the citizen-scientist model, they are continually creating an ever expanding knowledgebase to help each other and the online community. High quality digital user-submitted photographs of insects from the US and Canada are used for identification and research, helping to categorize insects for others use.
Excellent as a basic ID guide for garden insects, the Bug Guide website also helps expand and educate on the natural histories of the insects listed. By listing the date, time and location of the photos a virtual collection is being created that helps show gardeners where and when insects might be found. Learning more about the life cycles and migration habits will help you prepare for future visits and plan an appropriate welcome for them, based on whether the insects are beneficial or predatory.
Finally, we’ve found a book that we can recommend for the home gardener! It is excellent for the beginner, but also has really useful information for the more experienced gardener. We really like that it doesn’t just advocate reaching for the latest and greatest petrochemical herbicide, but breaks control down into biological, cultural and acute methods.
This handy tool for pest identification can be taken right into the garden. Pests, listed in alphabetical order, are shown in larger-than-life-color drawings to make identification easy. Descriptions of their life cycle area are accompanied with three main methods of control (Biological, Cultural, and Acute) to choose from.
These controls incorporate various techniques such as companion planting, traps, sprays, hand picking, creating a good garden environment, and the use of microbials. The use of long term biological or cultural control for prevention is best since acute controls may also kill beneficial organisms and upset the balance of nature. The principles of Integrated Pest Management Principles are explained and guidelines are provided for the home.
From the soil to the seed to the food you eat – we’ll help you grow your best garden!
“We believe in a world of healthy soil, seed, food and people. Everyone has a fundamental need for vibrant food and health, which are closely linked.
We work to achieve this by challenging and changing conventional gardening thinking, providing successful and unique methods and techniques while inspiring the power of choice and action for the individual.”